The million-dollar question that many have begun to ask in the recent weeks was as simple as this:
Is Ryan Donato coming back?
The Seattle Kraken gave a million-dollar answer on Wednesday, figuratively and literally.
The 26-year old forward, who pumped in career totals while taking a contract last September for the league minimum, signed a one-year extension for a pay hike at $1.2 million, announced by the team.
“Ryan elevated his game last season and we’re happy to have him return to the Kraken,” said Kraken general manager Ron Francis in a team statement.
“He completed a career year and will hopefully eclipse that in 2022-23.”
With his future unknown last summer coming out of a six-goal, 50-game performance in a one season stop with the San Jose Sharks, Donato wasted no time making his mark after jumping on board in Seattle as a late off-season addition. He scored the historic first goal in Kraken history at Vegas on Oct. 12.
For much of the season, he changed linemates more than his socks.
It didn’t affect his production. Donato’s 16 goals – fourth on the team – set a new career-high in 74 games, also chipping in with 31 points. Late in the season, he finally landed into a state of consistency with linemates Matty Beniers and Jordan Eberle, stitched together for most of the remainder of the calendar after the phenom Beniers made his NHL debut with nine points in ten games.
“Those two guys were awesome to play with,” said Donato at the end of the regular season, who also buried a goal on Beniers’ first career NHL point and assist in Calgary.
“Matty has a bright future in this league, so I was happy to be a part of his first couple of games. (Eberle) is an ‘apple tree.’ You get open, you get him the puck, he’s going to get open.”
Donato originally entered the offseason as a restricted free agent and with arbitration rights, but surprisingly did not receive a qualifying offer for a new contract. Francis later explained the team didn’t want to go into arbitration with Donato but reassured the organization’s interest and continued talks on a new contract this summer.
“If I’m lucky enough to be back here, that would be great,” said Donato, back in May.
He’s ready to go as a potential fit in an upgraded lineup offensively, adding Andre Burakovsky via free agency and Oliver Bjorkstrand in a trade with Columbus.
Donato has 108 points in 254 career NHL games with Seattle, San Jose, Minnesota, and Boston.